Collecting materials documenting the life and creativity of East European Jewry has been a major focus of YIVO's mission since the Institute's inception in 1925. During the fifteen years of YIVO's existence in Vilna, the Institute gathered an extensive array of records, manuscripts, artifacts, and field notes thanks to the efforts of an international network of professional scholars and amateur zamlers (collectors). This mission has continued in America in the decades since World War II. The YIVO Archives is one of the worldâs most important repositories for materials documenting many aspects of modern Jewish history and culture.
The approximately 1,400 collections (record groups) that make up the YIVO Archives occupy over 10,000 linear feet. These collections consist of manuscripts, correspondence, and printed materials. The Archives also holds photographs, films, videotapes, sound recordings, art works, and artifacts, most of which have been organized into the following special collections: Music Collections, Sound Archive, Photographic Archive, Film Archive, and Art and Artifacts Collection.
The primary languages of the documents are Yiddish, English, Hebrew, Russian, Polish, French, and German. The collections, while covering a wide range of topics relating to Jewish history and culture around the world, concentrate on four main areas: East European Jewish history; history of the Jews in the United States; Yiddish language, literature, and culture (including significant collections on the Yiddish theater and Yiddish press); and the Holocaust.